June 2, 2004



Whose streets?

At the beginning of Mission Movie, as the camera patrols the neighborhood named in the title, it drifts past a few of the inhabitants whose stories are told here, and "Barrio Misión," by Dr. Loco and His Rockin' Jalapeño Band with Culture Clash, comes over the soundtrack asserting that "the sun always shines in the Mission." Director Lise Swenson and her many collaborators have reason to hope so, as the film's first major screening is set to take place street-fest style at the CELLspace-run Mission Village, the second large-scale alfresco screening the Mission District has seen in the past month.

This is a pretty different shot of the city than the one seen by blanketed crowds at May 15's Dolores Park screening of What's up Doc? – no hilarity-crammed chase scenes through Chinatown parades, no high-rise hotels, no Barbra Streisand. Connecting the dots and measuring the distances between the neighborhood's disparate populations, Mission Movie takes place in the living quarters of undocumented immigrants and self-involved hipsters facing eviction; in a family-run corner store where a Palestine-born teenager battles his father across various generational and cultural divides; in an alleyway (played by Clarion Alley) whose walls hold the artwork of those living in and around it, where a Latino muralist from the neighborhood schools an Anglo UC Santa Cruz graduate in taking notice of the canvas he's painting on.

Lots of folks from around these parts are bound to see themselves in the picture (including some, like muralist Susan Greene and gallery owner Rena Branston, who actually are in the picture). Whether they like it or not may depend on their conduct during and experience of the past decade of upheaval and change the Mission has sustained, years referred to here both obliquely and dead-on. There are some heavy-handed moments, but the film also acknowledges that it's not a simple matter deciding which of us belong and how we should act while we're here.

Although the filmmakers are taking Mission Movie on the festival circuit, starting with the International Latino Film Festival in New York City, Mission Village makes a fitting showplace for a film so focused on questions of community – who makes it, who gets to be in it, and how it dissolves. We all know the answer to the protest question "Whose streets?" Mission Movie voices a good-natured rebuke to those calling out the slogans, reminding us all to unpack that insistent little "our" and see who's inside.

Lynn Rapoport

'Mission Movie Gala Community Celebration and Screening,' with live music, special guests, and free valet bike parking by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the Bike Kitchen, takes place Fri/4, 7:30 p.m., Mission Village, 18th and Florida Sts., S.F. Free. (415) 364-3082, www.missionmovie.org.